January Care of Trees and Shrubs

January Care for Trees and Shrubs

Winter in the backyard is a good time to do some pruning of trees and scrubs

(Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

  • Recycle your Christmas tree---It makes a great place for small birds and small mammals to hide in and use as a windbreak from the cold. Place it in your garden or flower bed until winter is over and then shred it for mulch.

  • If you had a live tree and still need to plant it, first remove all ropes from the ball. If burlap is nylon or synthetic, remove it; if it is cotton, open it up and make several openings in the sides. If it is in a wire basket, leave it on and plant it--the roots will find their way out and into the soil. Remember, do not plant the tree any deeper than the top of the soil ball; if you plant your tree too deep, it will suffocate. Do not fertilize the tree when you plant it—use only a compost mixture. Stake the tree if it is in a windy location, but remember to remove the stake in the spring. Apply 2-3 inches of mulch. Water the tree heavily when you plant it so that the soil particles settle in the air hole around the roots. Water the tree on days when the ground is thawed.

  • Prune out dead, damaged, and diseased wood from your small trees and ornamentals. Winter is a good time to prune trees and shrubs. Most importantly, make sure you know what you are doing and don’t do anything that would jeopardize the plants or put you in harm’s way. Do NOT make large cuts in trees or attempt to prune a tree by climbing the tree or by using a ladder. There are professional arborists that do this. You can obtain their services by looking under Tree Care online or in the phone book. Make sure that the company you choose is a Maryland Tree Expert!

  • Remove any sprouts from the base of trees

  • Remove any water sprouts that grow vertically from branches

  • Be sure to make clean cuts when pruning; it’s important to cut back to the collar of the branch-- do not leave a short stump because this will invite disease and insect problems. There is a right and wrong way to prune trees and shrubs. There are a number of books and other publications that illustrate how to make good cuts and effectively prune small trees and shrubs. Often there are local programs that offer expert instruction how to prune plants so get some proper training before performing surgery on your plants!

  • Thin out your trees and shrubs. This will help with air circulation, critical for a healthy plants, and will help prevent disease and insect infestations

  • Attend a local tree and shrub care workshop and learn from the experts. It will also give you an opportunity to get outside and imagine that spring is around the corner. You may also call the Maryland Forest Service at 410-848-9290 to learn more.

  • Clean your pruning tools after each tree or shrub with a solution of isopropyl alcohol to prevent spreading disease from one plant to another.

Article by Dawne Howard, Master Gardener and FCFCDB member

Nature Note for 1/8/2017